By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
Good morning and thanks for stopping by here at The Bag of Loot and my Casual Encounters column. For those who are new here, I will be cracking a pack of Fate Reforged and looking at what I would select first if this was Pick 1, Pack1 in my next draft. Let’s take a look at what I’ve got.
Fate Reforged seems a little more heavy with bombs than Khans was, so let’s start with the rare. Yasova Dragonclaw is a pretty strong starting place. She’s efficient to cast as a 4/2 for 3 mana and comes with Trample making her pretty solid from the outset. She triggers Ferocious if that matters to your deck as well, which is always a benefit. However, I get most of those same stats with an Alpine Grizzly so what makes her so appealing? Her ability to effectively Act of Treason one of their blockers each turn is actually really difficult to handle. Even if the creature you’re pulling aside isn’t a huge bomb, it can really upset combat math to pull aside their blocker and then swing in. The only catch is that she can only target a creature with power less than hers. That may or may not be ideal because you might only be pulling aside a Wetland Sambar or an Ainok Tracker. If you can find a way to Bolster her or to augment her to steal something larger then you might find things will get a little out of control. I’ve played against one in a match and while her ability is kind of tricky, it certainly is beatable. However, she’s still a very powerful card and would be pulled straight to the front of the pack for some careful consideration.
Mistfire Adept is a very nice uncommon and has some solid stats. The basic body is that of Hill Giant, which is quite reasonable. However, the Prowess and the ability to grant something Flying is the real perk here. You cast a spell and suddenly you have a 4/4 flier. That’s nothing to take lightly. There’s not really a whole lot of downside here because this is a useful to just about any deck playing Blue and would be getting a long hard look as well.
Renowned Weaponsmith is underwhelming in every regard. The artifact theme is not strong enough to warrant this guy, and the ability to tutor up a bad artifact is also not overly relevant. His base stats are a little on the poor side as well because he gets quickly outclassed. Sadly, this guy isn’t very good and will likely a late pickup for filler to someone in Blue.
Hewed Stone Retainers feels like a downgraded version of Illusory Angel. If this had Flying, or First Strike, or anything really, you’d consider playing it, but at a vanilla 4/4 the answer is probably not. Don’t get fooled by the casting cost, the fact that you need to cast this as the second spell this turn increases the cost of this and unless you have a deck with some cheap spells to fire off this might get stranded in your hand for a while.
Write into Being is a card I quite like. One of the concerns I have with the Manifest mechanic is that I often feel like I don’t have much control over what gets manifested. It might be that land I really need, or that super efficient removal spell, or that hyper expensive creature that I was really hoping to find in the late game. In all of these of situations having the card get Manifested is less than ideal. Write into Being gives you some measure of control over what spell you end up getting and that is very useful. The casting cost puts it right on curve with other Morphs and the fact that is a non creature spell helps provide you with fuel for Delve spells and triggers Prowess. While this is a long way from being a home run it is a deceptively powerful card and is ultimately very useful.
Temur Runemark is NOT something I like. Most auras are a surefire way to get yourself in a situation where you lose out in a 2 for 1 situation. Unless the Aura is really powerful, it is usually a better idea to play cards that stand on their own merit. I’m not going to say I won’t play an Aura, but I’m certainly not looking to play those auras unless I’m pretty desperate.
Collateral Damage is a card that I like in certain decks, but is usually not something I’m too keen to grab. I never like sacrificing MY board state to deal damage, so sequencing this spell just right to have maximum impact is tricky and pretty important. If I can’t find a way to sacrifice something that is being blocked (and dying anyway) to take out something else I’m just not overly keen to play this. The ONLY other way I play this if I have a tokens strategy where I can use the tokens as fodder, but even there I’m not going crazy with this card. This a tricky card and something that certainly has a benefit when played correctly, but not always available in the optimal way.
Whisperer of the Wilds was in last week’s pack too and I’m still a fan. I’d be flipping this to the front of the pack, but likely won’t be first picking this at this point.
Gurmag Angler is the sort of aggressive mid-round pickup you just love to see. The big body on this one is very appealing and the fact that the casting cost can be significantly reduced with Delve makes this very appealing. I don’t think I really want to first pick this because if you are in on the Delve plan you have a limited number of cards slots that can be devoted to delve cards and this guy may not be the best way to go. However, he is a very nice early pickup and a big body to sure up the board.
Typhoid Rats are one of those common cards that you always overlook, but it always makes your deck. Nobody likes attacking into or blocking a 1/1 deathtoucher and the rats just do some much work. It isn’t a first pick, but it certainly is a good mid-round pick.
Grim Contest is interesting because it is an unusual take on the “fight” mechanic that green usually gets for removal. The part I like about this is that it is at Instant speed meaning that you can use it on your opponent’s turn and leaving you to do whatever you like with your mana on your turn. Sadly, it is a gold card and fits into fewer decks, but if you have Green and Black in your deck I see no good reason not to take this mid-round and see if you can make it work for you. This would have been ideal in M15 Limited with Rotfeaster Maggot, but that is a digression. This is an interesting spell and something that will garner mild interest, but is in no way a first pick.
While a number of the cards in this pack are pretty interesting, there is no doubt that I would be taking Yasova from this pack with my first pick. I feel like Green leaves you open to go into some very powerful combinations by making Abzan, Sultai and Temur all available and her raw stats are very solid. Her two toughness is an issue because she dies readily to Wild Slash , Douse in Gloom and Debilitating Injury but there is plenty of upside to her because her repeatable “Act of Treason” is quite powerful and will really mess with combat. I don’t think she’s an insane bomb the way some of the Legendary Dragons are, but she’s very good and a cut above the other cards in this pack.
Thanks for stopping in today here at Casual Encounters and taking the time read. I hope you guys have an awesome MTG day!
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
Well, welcome back to our continuing Crack a pack MTG Series here at Casual Encounters and Three Kings Loot. I’m very happy to say that this is crack a pack number 20 for me! I can’t believe that I’ve got to 20. It seems like not all that long ago I was pitching the series to the guys at Three Kings Loot. The goal for 2015 is to continue writing these and hopefully build up some more readers who are keen to get into a discussion about the cards and the selections. So, let’s see what we’ve got on deck for today!
Today we’ll be opening a shiny new pack of Fate Reforged. Remember, as Fate Reforged enters the draft environment we are now drafting one pack of Fate and 2 packs of Khans meaning you will still be pretty heavily Khans focused. That said, Fate Reforged dove tails pretty well with Khans so it should move pretty seamlessly. Here we go.
Oh boy…we just opened something pretty spicy in Crux of Fate. People have been calling for a re-print of Damnation for a long time and this may be as close as we ever get. This is an awesome mass removal spell in Black, something that doesn’t come along in every set. The fact that this is modal could be relevant in Draft if you have a couple of the uncommon dragons on board and need a way to punch them through, but you will mostly look at this as premium mass removal that you will grab first almost each and every time.
Valorous Stance is a tremendously versatile card and both modes are very relevant. It is extremely efficiently costed at 2 manaand just does exactly what you need it to do every time. In most packs this would be first pickable, but today it’ll like slide to the 2nd pick in this pack.
Neutralizing Blast is a very underwhelming counter spell. The fact that it only targets multi-coloured spells is a huge issue because the number of such spells is quite low. Think about it, there were some in Khans, but many of those were Morph creatures (that aren’t multi-coloured if cast face down) and a cycle of uncommon spells like Ride Down. In Fate, there is once again a cycle of common spells and the cycle of Rare Dragons. That means that there aren’t a lot of relevant targets for this…so you’re likely just best to pass this and see if you grab it late as a sideboard option for the greedy 5 colour deck that the guy next to you is building.
Shifting Loyalties is a super powerful effect and could really turn the tide quickly as you trade you junky creature for their awesome one…but the variance on this is high. If they only have a Gore Swine do you really want to spend 6 mana and trade you Jeskai Sage for it? Likely not. So you have a dead card in hand. If you have a Jeskai Sage and they have Atarka…well…that’s different. I’d be careful with this one and wouldn’t prioritize it too highly because it could really backfire and just sit dead in your hand.
Sandteppe Outcast is a very useful 3 drop. 3 mana for a 2/1 creature and a 1/1 flier OR a 3/2 creature is nice versatility. I imagine the 1/1 flier is the most likely mode you’ll pick, but I could make a case that you really want the 3/2 if you have the Abzan Falconer or Abzan Battle Priest on board. Either way, this is very good and efficiently costed and could be a first pick if you were hard pressed.
Write Into Being is an interesting take on Manifest. It is a sorcery that only costs 2 and a Blue for a total of 3 mana. That is on par with Morphs…so that’s a perfectly acceptable casting cost for a 2/2. However, the fact that you get to look at the top two cards and pick which one gets Manifested is actually excellent value. You can essentially craft exactly which card you want turned over as a 2/2. That gives you a lot of control and could allow you to play some very fun head games with your opponent. Not a first pick, but a nice spell that likely goes in the early half of the round.
Fierce Invocation is another Manifest Sorcery. I like this one less, but it is still a 4/4 for 5 mana which isn’t bad…and if it is a creature…you’re in business. This is a mid-round pick up.
Douse in Gloom is Pharika’s Cure…just slightly more expensive. This is another early pick in this pack because it deals with everything from facedown creatures to Alpine Grizzly without any difficulty. This one isn’t flashy, but is the backbone of most limited decks.
Cunning Strike feels too expensive and just not good enough for 5 mana. At 5 mana I want to do something AWESOME…this just feels slow and awkward. Couple that with the fact that it is two colours and there is no doubt that this will table. I’d pass and only take this as a last resort.
Arashin Cleric…and the consensus is…NO. It doesn’t do enough. It can’t block Morphs and Manifested decks profitably, the life gain is fairly modest, and it gets outclassed quite quickly. No, don’t take this, you can do better.
Collateral Damage is a spell I really like. In a tokens strategy, or heck, just with that dumpy Arashin Cleric, sacrifice the creature for 1 red mana (at instant speed) for a Lightning Bolt. That seems fine to me. Not a crazy high pick, but very reasonable once you establish your colours as a mid-round pick up for some inexpensive removal/damage.
Gore Swine is just a 4/1 vanilla creature. I’m not going to dump on this creature because it can be quite serviceable, but if I have better options I’m taking those long before I take this. All that can be said for this thing is that at least it triggers Ferocious.
Bathe In Dragonfire is an excellent red removal spell. The 4 damage is very useful and deals with most threats. I’m not a fan of the Sorcery speed on this thing because it won’t catch Dash creatures, but you can’t expect too much from a common. For the record, this continuing the trend of seeing removal slowly become more and more expensive…so while this is pretty reasonable it likely would have been cheaper had it appeared in a set 3-5 years ago.
This is pretty much a no brainer…you grab Crux of Fate and move on. There really isn’t anything that would match up well with Crux, and if suggested anything else I would out right lying to you. So, while the other cards are pretty good…Crux is the hands down winner.
Wow…that was easy.
Well, thanks for reading folks and thanks for coming along for the ride to get to 20 Crack a Pack MTG. 20 may not seem like a lot to you guys, but let me assure it has been quite the trip. Let’s see if we can get to 30! Thanks for reading and until next time may you open nothing but Mythic rares.
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
Hello, fellow looters and welcome to my first ever article written for The Bag of Loot and hopefully there will be many more to follow. I had a hard time deciding what I wanted to write about for my very first article. Should I start a column? Should I talk about Magic Online? Or maybe I should write an article about which removal spells would best work to finally dispose of Justin Bieber? Either way, I decided that since this is the first of my content for The Bag of Loot, I would write about another recent first. This first being my initial experience with Magic’s new set: Fate Reforged.
Who doesn’t love a good prerelease? Maybe people who like to be in bed by eight o’ clock on a Friday night, however, I don’t think anyone by that description is reading this article. Khan’s was such an amazing set and Wizards have been doing better and better with the events in general that I was extra juiced for this event. Looking back on the night, it did not let down my expectations at all.
Anyway, let’s begin our story around ten o’ clock Friday night. I always tend to show up early to make friends and participate in the only thing comparable to casting Magic Cards: Trading Magic Cards. Prereleases are some of the best times to trade for cards as few events bring such a big crowd to your Local Game Store (LGS), and more people means more cards. I am not going to spend too much time on trading, (as that is not why you are here) but some notable additions to my collection were: A foil Artifact Mutation, Rite of Replication, and plenty of sweet sweet foils. ( I have a problem ok.)
Finally, the clock strikes midnight. Magic time! Sultai Time! Sultime? Forgive me for the pun but, Sultai was the actual clan I decided to go with. I had no predisposition of the specific deck I wanted to play, however, I did get a card pool that was very well positioned for a leap into my favorite archetype. My favorite deck in Khans of Tarkir Limited is the four to five color control deck with a Sultai base. I always felt like it is a very strong deck and the new cards from Fate Reforged only gave the deck more tools. I will go over the specific new cards that I found to be helpful in this deck in a little bit. (At least the ones that I got to play with.) So without further ado, here was the deck list I ended up with and a little explanation of why I ran each card:
Abomination of Gudul x1- This is just a solid value morph that is also in the right colors. The deck I ran, due to having five colors, was 18 lands. This creature would help me filter through my deck during my land heavier draws which greatly helped out my decks consistency. It is also worth noting that it’s 3/4 body is very strong against a majority of Fate Reforged cards. I got more value out of blocking and flipping it than I thought I would. This flier also beats a lot of the smaller body fliers that got brought into the format by Fate Reforged.
Abzan Beastmaster x2 – This was a card that I really wanted to try and use because I am a big fan of low setup cost card draw engines. I had many occasions where this card would draw cards off himself as I was the control deck. I was very happy with this card even at the bottom end where I had to snap block him to trade with a morph. At the worst, in my deck it was still a one for one trade that stalls the game which is exactly what a control deck wants.
Atarka, World Render x1 – I only got to attack with this card once as it always acted as a lightning rod and immediately ate a kill spell every time I played it. The one time I attacked with it, I won the game by a landslide. Twelve flying damage a turn is no joke. Even if they manage to have a blocker, trample and double strike are a good combo.
Aven Surveyor x1 – This did not initially make the cut into my deck, however, it was about midway through the event that I re-read this card and kind of had a moment where I asked myself, “Why am I not playing this card?” It is an easy, slow-going, late game clock attached to a powerful tempo swing. I like it especially due to the fact that counters, heavy mana investment, and the rune mark cycle are very easy ways to get additional value out of using this card. Did I ever play this with a +1/+1 counter? No
Bathe in Dragonfire x2 – This kind of fell in the same boat where I had two in my pool and I wasn’t playing them. Boy was I stupid for not main decking these sooner in a control deck. Not much else to say about this card other than it kills a lot and is cheap.
Channel Harm x1 – Now this is an expensive but very effective trick that I can easily say fit the bill in my heavy control deck. In fact, this was my only white card. A majority of the time, it was only a one for one and a tempo swing, however, that ended up working out for my deck a majority of the time.
Debilitating Injury x1 – Cheap, efficient, solid removal in Khan’s limited, not much to really say about it.
Douse in Gloom x1 – This was one of the New Fate Reforged cards I happen to really like. Not only did this kill morphs, but there are a lot of new and existing two toughness cards that this made short work of. The additional effect of gain two life was also surprisingly relevant in a majority of my games. As the control deck, any amount of life gain helps carry you to the late game that much easier.
Enhanced Awareness x1 – I was very happy with this card being in my deck. It filters through the top three cards in order to grab two or even all three if you have a land in your hand you want to pitch. This card does occupy a crowded slot mana wise, however, at instant speed, it offers flexibility.
Master the way x1 – Solid removal that replaces itself. Not much to say here. It is a little disappointing that it is a sorcery though as that reduces flexibility.
Monastery Flock x2 – This card served a few purposes in my deck. First, it is just a very flexible creature that could be an effective wall or a 2/2 beat down creature. Second, and most importantly, it almost always triggers Abzan Beastmaster which I was playing two of. This two card combo drew me more cards than I can count over the five rounds.
Reach of Shadows x1 – Probably one of the best single target removal spells in the format. It also lends itself to a flexible five drop slot which made it even better.
Ruthless Ripper x1 – This card was mainly used as an effective way to deal with threats on board. The two life did not really matter much, however, the deathtouch allowed this creature to trade up quite a few times as well as force my opponents to hold back attacks in fear.
Soulflayer x1 – This was one of the few real bombs in my deck. In my deck, it almost always ended up being a 4/4 flier for two black, due to my Monastery Flocks and other fliers, which as it turns out, is awesome! The best cast scenario in my deck was to have a Ruthless Ripper in my graveyard in order to give it deathtouch as well which allowed it to hold off anything in the air from attacking.
Sudden Reclamation x1 – Instant speed selective draw two, what is not to like? I found it surprisingly relevant at all stages of the game too. Early game, I wanted to fix my land drops and charge my delve engine. Late game, it got back my best creature and usually got back one of my tap lands to gain a life.
Sultai Soothsayer x1 – #Value and delve fodder on a creature with a body who will, nine times out of ten, trigger Abzan Beastmaster? Hop in! In all seriousness, I would play this card any time I am in Sultai colors because this card has a lot of value.
Swarm of Bloodflies x1 – This card was decent. It worked well with all my kill spells which gave my opponents a big clock. I was never supremely happy to cast this card however, it did pull its weight quite well though. WARNING: Manifesting this card will make you a sad panda.
Tasigur, the Golden Fang x1 – I played this card but found myself never caring to activate him. As far as I was concerned, this was a stronger Hooting Mandrills. This card may have some real power in constructed but in limited, this is by no means a super bomb heavy card.
Write into Being x2 – This card was mediocre for me, however, it felt like a necessary card to include. This card served a few purposes for my control deck. First, my deck had 18 land, therefore, most of the time I would manifest a land just to get more value from my deck. Second purpose of this card was draw fixing. What was essentially scry two ended up being very powerful whenever I cast it. Lastly, it was a way to add more creatures to my deck which only ran a limited number as a majority of cards were removal spells.
That was a big exhaustive, but that was my deck and I was very happy with it. In addition to the cards listed above, my sideboard was stacked with additional removal just in case it was needed which made me feel comfortable in every match-up. Speaking of match-up, I think it’s time for round one.
I was ready to play! Let’s do this! My first round opponent sits down and we start talking and he tells me that this is his first ever game of Magic. Oh boy, this means I have some work to do. There was really no challenge in this match-up due to his skill despite the raw power of his deck, however, I made sure he had as much fun and learned as much as he could. I wanted to walk away from that table with a new player among our ranks and that was job number one. Game one was short, and I tried to make it that way. Unknown to me until turn two, he kept a one land hand despite me explaining mulligan’s as I took one. I don’t think he quite understood the importance of them or of mana yet so I tried to end his suffering fast as he didn’t draw a single land. Game two was where he actually played a real game of magic. Despite the first game only lasting five minutes, this game took us to time. This was due to his slow play and need for explanation but I didn’t mind. I won in the end thanks to a well placed Channel Harm, the life gain from my lands and Douse in Gloom. War Flare and Ponyback Brigade did a number on my life total and always took him all the way with some help from me. At the end of it all, mission accomplished, he wasn’t a very vocal person and kind of quiet, however, by the time I left to turn in the match slip, he was smiling and in a good mood.
My second round was an opponent from my LGS that is quite skilled. I have faced him in many finals so I was stoked for a good match. He was playing a very effective Temur aggro shell which I have seen be very effective in the past. Game one, my seven card hand had no land. Bleh…well, time to ship it. I was on the play so I was fine with it. Down to six cards and….another horrible hand with only one land. Five cards? Still only one land…. Well, four cards might be better? Still one land was all my deck seemed to want to give me so I played it. It went about as well as you expected with me hanging on as long as I did thanks to a Debilitating Injury. Game two I decided to play and I got a much better hand. I was trading removal spells for creatures and generally feeling good about my chances and then…the fire nation attacked. Not really, but he played Shaman of the Great Hunt which immediately allowed him to use that and his 3/3 to crash in for seven and gain a whole lot of upside. At this point in the game he was even able to activate the ferocious ability that turn. This is where I made a crucial mistake. I let it live another turn despite a kill spell residing in my hand. I decided to develop my board a little while longer which allowed another turn of smash for nine this time and draw two more cards. At this point all prior card advantage I had gained had been lost and we were back to being even. To top it off I was now bleeding to death. The game went on and I had actually stabilized through Abomination and Soulflayer which got flying. It got to the point where I had lethal on board and all he had was a 2/2 flier. Abomination was holding him back and I was sure I was going to win and this is where I made the game breaking mistake. I had Master the Way and I saved it instead of cracking it off to kill the 2/2 while I was at two life. I was killed by a flipped Temur charger giving it trample into a Runemark and Dragon Scale Boon. Ouch.
Opponent was a no show! Well, bright side was that one other person had a no show as well so we each took the win in our respective matches and played each other. He was piloting one of the most stacked Abzan decks I could have imagined. Two Falconers, two Battle Priests, premium removal and strong on-color rare cards. I ended up beating him two to zero however due to my strong removal suit. Let’s move on to round four!
Imagine my opponents and my surprise when we both sit down and realize we had been playing each other for the last hour. He was my “third round” opponent. Well at least we both knew each other’s decks in and out because we also shared them with each other. In all honesty I was feeling great because I was the one who won. Game one was very difficult however, remember when I talked about attacking with Atarka once? Well it quickly ended the game. My opponent had so much removal, but had just used his Suspension Field on another mediocre creature. To my credit, I baited it out because I knew he had it. On to game two which technically never ended. We battled back and forth with removal and playing giant threats. Eventually, I was able to take control of the board and forced him to Crux of Fate during turns which caused me to win the match leaving me at 3-1. (Yay!)
At this point it was five in the morning. My opponent wanted to go home and though the extra packs weren’t worth staying for. I win…technically.
I do feel that 4-1 was the result I expected given how I was playing and the quality of my card pool. I just wish more matches were actual legitimate wins, but you go to prereleases to have fun right? Well, I had a boat load of fun despite having to wake up for work in the morning. I look forward to seeing Fate Reforged unfold as a format and continue to figure it out.
Thanks for reading guys! Feel free to comment below or message me your own fun prerelease stories or memories. See you next time!
By Roy Anderson @ on Twitter
Fate Reforged pre-release will introduce special promo ‘Time Shifted Cards’. During the event you get to pick your Tarkir Clan and will also receive a special ‘Ugin’s Fate” booster pack which contains a Token, a Land card and certain amount of ‘Time Shifted Cards’ from a pool of 40 holo foil stamped cards with alternate art which demonstrates how the plane of Tarkir has changed. The PAX Australia panel showcased three of these cards.